8 injured, 1 dead after 2-alarm fire at paint factory on Leonard Ave. in Columbus

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Firefighters battled a two-alarm fire at a paint factory in east Columbus where they confirm eight people have been transported with injuries and one person had died.

The blaze started just after midnight Thursday at Yenkin-Majestic Paints along the 1900 block of Leonard Avenue. When first responders made it to the scene, they were met by employees exiting the building. Five of them were taken to local hospitals.

Another two employees were trapped and had to be extricated by firefighters. They were transported to area hospitals in critical condition, but have since been updated to stable condition according to Chief Steve Martin.

One person was confirmed missing at the time of the fire. Martin said his body was found about 9:15 a.m. He has been identified as Wendell Light, 44, a press room supervisor. His body was found partially covered in rubble, Martin said.

Martin also said there are no injuries reported among firefighters at this time.

As of this writing, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

There’s no reason for us to believe at this point that it was anything malicious, but we just really need to find out what caused it,” said Martin. Andrew Smith, the CEO of Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation, issued the following statement:

The Yenkin-Majestic family is deeply saddened today. Early this morning, a serious fire broke out at our manufacturing facility on Leonard Avenue in Columbus. Tragically, one of our colleagues died and eight others suffered injuries that required medical treatment.

As a family-owned company, we are focused right now on the family of the deceased, Wendell Light, and the health and well-being of our injured colleagues and their families. Our thoughts are also with our neighbors that were impacted by this incident.

We are working hand in hand with the Columbus Fire Department, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other government agencies as they investigate. We are committed to uncovering the details behind this tragic accident.

The welfare of our employees is of the utmost importance to our family. We are in the process of communicating with all of our colleagues to make sure they are informed and supported in every way needed.

This company has called Columbus home for 101 years, and we are grateful for the rapid response by Columbus Police Department and Columbus Fire Department crews.

Andrew Smith, CEO of Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation

Previous Inspections and Incidents

Aug. 12, 2011 – Employee died following an electric shock. The employee was plugging his forklift into the charger at the end of his shift when he felt a shock in his hand. He told his supervisor what happened and that he didn’t need medical attention. He was found unresponsive minutes later and died six days after that in the hospital. The company was cited for two serious violations (using the wrong kind of electric wiring & essentially not protecting the charging apparatus from damage and other safety issues). They settled for a total fine of $5,400.

Oct. 27, 2011 – Complaint triggers inspection and more fines. Yenkin was cited for one serious violation (ladder not adequate to prevent slipping) and four other violations (incomplete log of work-related injuries/illnesses x4). They settled for a total fine of $5,940.

July 19, 2012 – Inspection reveals 16 violations, 15 of which were serious. That number was eventually brought down to 10 serious and 5 other violations, with initial fines reduced from $138,600 to $76,203 after settlement. Serious violations were regarding process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals, including a lack of proper safety training, procedures, and auditing. Inspectors also found that the required workplace hazard assessment had not been performed.

May 1, 2014 – Follow-up inspection finds no violations.

July 29, 2015 – Complaint leads to one serious violation of unsafe storage of materials. Settled for a fine of $4,851.

There have been no inspections documented at the facility since then.

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